In the Liturgical Year I’ve discovered there are seven Sundays of Easter. For most of America Easter has come and gone. The Easter egg hunts are done and we are back to the routine of the daily grind. But the Liturgical Year won’t let us leave this event with such a cavalier observance. As Robert Webber says the “essential theme of Easter cannot be communicated in a day. It takes a season. And this season in the pattern of the Christian year is repeated yearly.” (148) I want to quote more from Webber’s book Ancient-Future Time on the significance of the second Sunday of Easter. He starts by recounting a call from a friend who was frustrated with the church which “follows a pattern of worship that borrows from TV talk shows and entertainment.” He says, “If you feel this way, then the second Sunday of the Easter season is a good time to address this problem and call the church to be the community of the resurrected people.” (150)
“Easter is a time to call the church back to its roots, back to its original identity. Obviously we are aware that the original church was not perfect. The church has always struggled with its human dimension. Perhaps this is why the story of doubting Thomas is read on this Sunday. He wanted proof because his faith was based on evidence. The Enlightenment taught that only that which could be proven could be believed. We evangelicals have been greatly influenced by the modern demand for proof. It is as though faith is born of evidence. Yet the writer of Hebrews taught, ‘Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see’ (Heb. 11:1 NIV).
The proof of the resurrection is not in rational argument but in the community of the resurrected people. The church is called to be a sign, a witness to the Easter message that Christ has overcome the powers of evil (Eph. 3:10). The church is called to be the embodied reality of a resurrected people who live out the reality of the resurrection. We gain an insight into this kind of community in Acts 2:42-47.
The point to take into account is what the life of the church signifies. It speaks; it communicates. Today many feel that the current church signifies the culture. We have dumbed down the church, making it so palatable that it has no edge. We need to take the church back to its origins, to its roots in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and once again become the community of the resurrection.
This ancient Jerusalem church was a church that signified resurrection spirituality. They lived the resurrected life. Today the real key to church renewal is not strategy, as we have been told by church growth movements, but like the early church, we are to embody the resurrection. Those communities that become corporate expressions of resurrection spirituality are communities that will attract and keep the unsaved and unchurched. People are not held in the church through gimmicks, entertainment, or even so-called relevance. What will renew the church today is the communal experience of the resurrection. The church is the context in which that resurrection experience is named and known.” (150-151)I end today with a prayer from Augustine as found in my other companion for this year Ancient Christian Devotional.
“O God, our true life, to know you is life, to serve you is freedom, to enjoy you is a kingdom, to praise you is the joy and happiness of the soul. I praise and bless and adore you. I worship you, I glorify you. I give thanks to you for your glory. I humbly beg you to live with me, to reign in me, to make this heart of mine a holy temple, a fit habitation for your divine majesty.”